Summer - An Ideal Time for Healthful Eating
Summertime has long been known as the season for taking unforgettable family vacations, creating lifelong memories, and enjoying endless fun. What is often overlooked, however, is that this warm time of year provides an ideal opportunity for eating healthfully.
Fresh, Flavorful, Affordable
Summer is when fresh, wholesome foods are most flavorful and affordable. Locally grown fruits and vegetables are widely available, including those that are especially unique and delicious, like berries, melons, peaches, and freshly-harvested tomatoes, cucumbers, and summer squash. In fact, children who refuse to eat tomatoes purchased at the grocery store have been known to actually enjoy those that are grown in their own garden because they taste dramatically different. An added benefit is that fresh produce can be quick and easy to prepare; this is important during hot months when the goal is to turn on the oven as little as possible. If your family desires to establish the healthy habit of eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, summer is the perfect time to begin!
Purchasing Fresh Produce
Aside from starting your own garden, here are a few ways to obtain the fresh produce available near you this time of year:
- Shop at your local Farmer’s Market in the summer months. Be willing to purchase produce that you may have never tried, like kale, eggplant, or fresh herbs that are new to you.
- Join a Food Co-Op or Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program in your area.
- Shop at a natural foods market or other grocery store that carries fresh produce from local farmers; ensure that it is clearly labeled so you know exactly what you are buying and where it is from.
Preparing Fresh Produce
Limitless Options - Once you bring your fresh produce home, the options are limitless. An obvious choice is to serve it fresh, as part of a meal or snack. Because it is fresh and grown locally, it will taste better than what you typically buy at the store. So even if it is something that your child usually refuses, try serving it to him anyway – you may be pleasantly surprised! Examples include:
- fresh berries atop hot or cold cereal in the morning
- cubed melon with low-fat cottage cheese or yogurt as a snack
- lettuce or spinach leaves and tomato slices on a sandwich or wrap at lunchtime
- sliced cucumber, carrot sticks, and/or bell pepper spears with low-fat dip or hummus for snack
Fire up the Grill - Grilling fresh vegetables (and even fruit) is a delectable way to prepare them. Moreover, barbecuing can be a healthy method of cooking and is a perfect summertime activity! Try grilling kebabs that contain chunks of zucchini and yellow squash, bell peppers, onion, pineapple, and even peaches; add cubes of all-natural skinless chicken breast to the skewer. Serve these kebabs with whole grain bread or rolls to create a savory, well-rounded evening meal. Okra and corn on the cob also taste delicious when cooked on the grill.
Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth - Nothing rounds out a perfect dinner better than something sweet, and summertime makes it possible to create healthy desserts using the best all-natural ingredients: fresh fruit! Pair fresh strawberries, blueberries, and/or raspberries with angel food cake or vanilla frozen yogurt. Or top fruit sorbet with slices of peaches or nectarines.
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Make the Most of Summer
Make the most of your family’s summer this year. Invest in their health by preparing fresh, wholesome, delicious meals and snacks by using fruits and vegetables that are grown and harvested locally.